Let the engines roar and the dirt fly in Washougal

Washougal MX Park turns 40 this year

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Engines will be roaring and dirt will be flying at Washougal Motocross Park this week, during the 2011 Washougal AMA Motocross National. Amatuers get the first crack Thursday and Friday, before the pros compete Saturday.

Ralph and Carolyn Huffman have the biggest backyard in Washougal, and they don’t mind sharing it with tens of thousands of racing fans around the world.

Since the 1970s, the Washougal Motocross Park has attracted thrill seekers on wheels with its hairpin turns, hang time jumps and breathtaking scenery. Forty years later, the community support and the international flavor for this iconic landmark near the Washougal River continues to grow.

“A lot of riders say there’s not a more beautiful track on the circuit,” said track manager Ryan Huffman, son of Ralph and Carolyn. “We are grateful for our loyal following of fans, riders and their families who travel from all parts of the globe to spend the whole week out here with us.

“It’s a pretty cool thing to watch the crowd gradually grow,” he added. “On the day before the race, I’ll look around and be just totally blown away by all the people who are already here. It’s pretty gratifying to see so many people here for a race at your place.”

Gates open 10 a.m. Wednesday for the 2011 Lucas Oil American Motocross Association Washougal National. Amateurs get a crack at the fresh soil Thursday and Friday, before the pros tear it up Saturday. Camping for one to three nights is $60, and parking is $5. Saturday only admission is $40, and parking is free. Racing on Saturday begins at 1 p.m.

Last year, an estimated 20,000 fans made the 30th Washougal AMA National a day to remember. Track spokesman Brian Barnes expects this week to be even bigger. He said ticket sales are going through the roof, and there is around 950 entries for Amateur Days.

“This is the 40th year for the Washougal track, and the 40th year for AMA outdoor motocross. I think there will be a huge crowd of people here to help us celebrate,” Barnes said. “The track has never looked better. Our crew has done an absolutely amazing job. Everybody has outdone themselves this year.”

In order to ring in a 40th anniversary in style, the racing better be top notch. Huffman and his staff are thrilled to have Ryan Villopoto back on the track for the first time in two years. The Poulsbo, Wash., native is just six points behind Australian Chad Reed for the top spot in the 450 class. Ryan Dungey of Belle Plaine, Minn., is just a point behind Villopoto, which means the top three riders in the class are only separated by seven points.

“Forty years is awesome,” Huffman said. “Great racing for the fans is what I want to see, and we definitely have that this year.”

A dark horse in the 450 could be Kevin Windham. The fan favorite from Baton Rouge, La., does have a few Washougal wins under his belt. Barnes said not to count out Trey Canard, last year’s Washougal winner in the 250 class who has made the jump to 450.

Three Kawasaki riders stand on top of the 250 standings, but Washougal is where things could shake up. Dean Wilson of Scotland is in first place, followed by Tyla Rattray of South Africa and Blake Baggett of Grand Terrace, Calif.

After the amateur races Friday night, fans will be able to check a display of 100 retro bikes from 1960 to 1976. Riders from previous Washougal motocross events will drive these beauties around the track between the national races Saturday.

Washougal High School wrestlers are selling racing programs Saturday for a fundraiser. Look for their tent as you walkthrough the main gates to the park.

“The evolution of the Washougal track from 1971 to 2011 has transformed from a field with small trees where people from town would come to ride to what is now become a world wide mecca for motocross,” Barnes said. “We would like to send out a big ‘thank you’ to the Camas and Washougal residents and local businesses who have been so supportive. They are the reason we are celebrating 40 years together, and looking forward to many more.”